The E7 OLED TV is awesome TV, but unless you're rich you shouldn't buy it. That's because other, cheaper OLED TVs from LG have the same image quality.
I'm referring to the C7, which currently costs at least $1,200 less. And having tested both side by side, I can confirm that their picture quality is pretty much the same.
Both deliver spectacular performance that's best I've ever tested. It's a bit better than its 2016 predecessors and just as good as the Sony XBR-A1E OLED, which costs about the same as the E7.
Both are significantly worse values than the C7, which itself is currently overpriced compared to the 2016 versions. But while prices will fall and the 2016 models will sell out as the year progresses, the E7 will probably remain a lot more expensive than the C7. For just about every buyer, it's not worth it.
Updated June 7 to take the Sony XBR-A1E review into account.
Editors' Note May 22: Since this review was originally published the Design score has been reduced from a 10 to a 9 due to the superior design of the recently reviewed Samsung Q7 series, bringing the overall score down from 7.9 to 7.8. The review has not otherwise been changed.
In a word: design.
The E7 has glass around the edges and a speaker bar along the bottom, while the C7 is a study in minimalism, with a vanishingly small frame. Personally I actually like the C7's design better, although both are beautiful enough to earn my top mark of "10" in the design category.
Just like last year's E6, the E7 receives LG's "picture-on-glass" treatment. The OLED module -- the thing that creates the picture -- is applied to a glass back panel, leaving the edge of the TV made of a quarter-inch of glass bordering the black around the image. It's a striking effect.
The E7 preserves the ultrathin profile characteristic of LG OLED TVs, but the thinnest part of the TV, the upper two thirds above the bulge housing the electronics, inputs and other stuff, is actually slightly thicker than the step-down C7. It's still hella thin, though, at around 3/8 of an inch. The bottom section of my 65-inch E7 review sample measured 2 and 3/8 inch at the widest point.
The back of the TV is also subtly patterned, but it's a different pattern than the E6, and the entire backside is dark burgundy instead of black like last year. The stand is the same slick design used on the C7.
The other major style differentiator is a horizontal strip of silver lines along the bottom, a grille of sorts, that fronts the E7's more powerful sound system. On the more expensive G7 you can actually fold this speaker bar up behind the TV for a cleaner look when wall-mounted, but on the E7 it's fixed in place.
LG's Web OS menu system feels more mature and snappier than ever on the 2017 models, but it lacks the app coverage of Sony's Android TV and the innovative extras of Samsung's Tizen system. I do like using the motion-based remote to whip around the screen, something that's particularly helpful when signing into apps using an on-screen keyboard.
The scroll wheel is also great for moving through apps, like those seemingly infinite thumbnail rows on Netflix and Amazon. New for 2017, the remote has buttons that launch each one instantly, and both are welcome. I'm less of a fan of the prominent placement of the voice/search button, but that's my only real issue with the clicker.
Both of those major apps offer 4K and HDR/Dolby Vision content on a handful of shows and movies, mostly original series. The Vudu app is a trove of (expensive) 4K and Dolby Vision movies, too, and there's plenty of 4K available for free on the YouTube app. A few other major non-4K apps are available, including Hulu and Google Play Movies and TV, but if you want more, your best bet is to get an external streamer.
|HDR compatible:||HDR10 and Dolby Vision|
|Smart TV:||Web OS|
OLED's basic tech is closer to late, lamented plasma than to the LED LCD (QLED or otherwise) technology used in the vast majority of today's TVs. Where LCD relies on a backlight shining through a liquid crystal panel to create the picture, with OLED and plasma, each individual sub-pixel is responsible for creating illumination. That's why OLED and plasma are known as "emissive" and LED LCD are called "transmissive" displays, and a big reason why OLED's picture quality is so good.
For its 2017 models, LG claims a bit more brightness and some other minor tweaks (see Picture Quality for more), but generally left well enough alone. There are no differences in image quality between any of the 2017 OLED TVs, according to LG, although they do have different audio capabilities. Step-up models like the E7 hace a sound bar, while the C7 does not. A quick listen proved the E7 does sound better than the C7, and even slightly better than the Sony XBR-A1E, but a good external sound bar will trounce any of them. This year LG dropped the 3D and curved screens found on some 2016 OLEDs, including the E6.
Unlike Samsung, LG TVs like the E7 support both current types of HDR video: Dolby Vision and HDR10. Software upgrades will add support for HLG (hybrid log gamma) HDR and Technicolor's HDR format later this year, but for content is currently nonexistent for both. A Technicolor-approved picture mode will arrive via update as well.
The selection of connections is top-notch. Unlike many of Samsung's sets, this one actually has an analog video input for legacy (non-HDMI) devices, although it no longer supports analog component video.
The E7 and C7, which I tested simultaneously, are once again tied as the best TVs I've tested -- ever. But since I have yet to review some other potential competitors, including Sony's OLED TV, they don't deserve the 2017 crown just yet. That said, its picture is spectacular enough to earn my highest score in this category: 10.
Compared to the 2016 OLED versions, which earned the same score, it delivers slightly more light output and looks better with HDR, but all told the overall differences are minor. It is significantly better than the Samsung Q7 QLED TV.
Click the image at the right to see the basic picture settings used in the review and to read more about how this TV's picture controls worked during calibration.
Dim lighting: OLED ruled in the environment home theater fans like best: a dark room. Watching the "John Wick" Blu-ray for example, all of the LGs spat out that inky blackness I've come to expect, trouncing the depth of black seen on the Samsung and the Vizio. Dark scenes showed the most noticeable differences. In Chapter 5, as Wick (Keanu Reeves) dresses in his black suit, the black background and shadows looked dark as night, yet details around his face remained true. Shadow detail was very similar between the 2016 and 2017 OLED TVs, and superb overall.
In comparison, the LCDs appeared more washed-out, and there were elements of blooming -- stray light that leaks from bright areas into dark -- visible at times, particularly with graphical elements. That issue was nonexistent with the OLED sets. In short, with dark or dim rooms there's no contest between OLED and the LCD-based TVs I had available to compare.
Bright lighting: LG claims a 25 percent improvement in light output over last year's models. In my tests the 2017 C7 and E7 were brighter, but by no more than 15 percent, and often by less depending on picture mode and measurement conditions. The company also restricts its claim to certain picture levels, meaning the brightness improvement doesn't apply to everything. Long story short: don't expect to see much, if any brightness improvement.
The main thing to know, however, is that OLEDs are plenty bright for just about any lighting environment. They're not the blinding light cannons that newer LCD-based displays can be, however, especially when bright content occupied a majority of the screen. Think a hockey match or "Frosty the Snowman" special.
|Light output in nits|
|TV||Mode (SDR)||10% window (SDR)||Full screen (SDR)||Mode (HDR)||10% window (HDR)|
|Sony XBR-65X930D||Vivid||926||492||HDR Video||923|
|LG 55UH8500||Vivid||610||403||HDR Bright||601|
|LG OLED65E6P||Vivid||447||137||HDR Vivid||691|
|LG OLED55B6P||Vivid||422||119||HDR Vivid||680|
All of the OLED sets preserved and reduced reflections very well -- a bit better than the Vizio and a bit worse than the Samsung, whose handling of reflections is among the best I've ever seen. New for 2017, LG's OLED screens themselves have less of a purplish tint in reflections, although both 2016 and 2017 OLEDs perform equally well at dimming reflections and preserving black levels.
Color accuracy: The LGs performed well in this area, although for some reason the initial color of the E7 was a bit worse than the C7. This led to a difference in post-calibration color as well, at least in my charts. Viewing program material, on the other hand, didn't show any big differences, and both showed highly accurate color and excellent saturation with both Wick's muted tones and the more vibrant palette of "Samsara."
Video processing: All of the OLEDs were very good in this category. They passed my go-to 1080p/24 film cadence test from "I Am Legend" in both the "Off" and the "Custom" (zero for De-Judder and 10 for De-Blur) TruMotion position. I'd probably choose the latter since it also delivered the TV's maximum motion resolution (600 lines) and correct film cadence.
The rest of the settings (with the exception of Off) introduced some form of smoothing, or soap opera effect, and none bested that motion resolution score. Sticklers for blurring will note that the Samsung beat the LG with a score of 1,200 lines.
Input lag with both the C7 and E7 are improved from last year, measuring an excellent 21 milliseconds each in Game mode. I didn't measure 4K or HDR lag this time around, but I plan to soon, and I'll update this review when it happens.
Off-angle and uniformity: Another big OLED advantage over LCD is its superb image when viewed from off-angle, in positions other than the sweet spot directly in front of the screen. The OLEDs maintained black level fidelity and color accuracy much better than any of the LED LCDs I've tested, all of which (including the Vizio and Samsung in this lineup) wash out in comparison.
Screen uniformity on the 2017 OLED sets was solid but not perfect, with dark, full-field patterns showing faint vertical banding, particularly the E7. It wasn't visible in program material I watched however, for example the tracking shot of the assault on the house in Chapter 5 of "Wick." The LCDs, in particular the Samsung, showed much more noticeable uniformity issues, for example brightness variations across the screen.
HDR and 4K video: OLED looks great with 4K Blu-ray played in high dynamic range, too.
Despite their light output inferiority compared to the Samsung Q7 QLED TV on paper, in person the LG OLED sets looked better in pretty much every way. The OLEDs even measured brighter in highlights than the Q7, according to spot measurements I took of the 4K BD version of "John Wick," like the fluorescent lights above the garage and the burst of sunlight during his tarmac doughnuts.
As I've seen before, the maxed-out backlight required by HDR exacerbates LCDs' inherent flaws, brightening areas that should be darker, like shadows and letterbox bars, and making blooming more noticeable. In contrast, so to speak, the OLED sets created an inky black canvas for the brilliant highlights of HDR to show up even more strongly.
One advantage Samsung claims over LG is in HDR color volume, which it says should make bright highlights more colorful. I didn't see any differences in "Wick," so I turned to a scene recommended to me by a Samsung technician, the Doomsday fight from "Batman v. Superman."
Comparing the 2017 OLEDs to the Samsung Q7 in ultrabright areas of color, like the orange lightning around Doomsday (2:32:27) and his eye beams (2:33:51), there was almost no visible difference in color at first glance. Only when I paused the action and looked very closely did I see that the Samsung maintained saturation a bit better than the OLEDs in those flashes. The difference was fleeting and restricted to ultrabright spots of color, however, and any Samsung advantage in color volume was far outstripped by OLED's other strengths.
Between the four OLED TVs HDR differences were minor, but I give the nod to the 2017 sets. I measured slightly brighter highlights in the E7 and C7 than in their 2016 counterparts, and I also noticed a greenish tint in the 2016 sets' default color compared to the 2017 models (and the Samsung), which were more accurate in midtones.
The biggest difference, however, was in color volume and detail in bright areas. In Chapter 1 of "Batman v. Superman," for example, the silhouette of young Bruce Wayne ascending into the brilliant sky was better-defined on the 2017 models (and the Q7), while the fiery explosions in Chapter 7 (1:18:28) and the highlights of the Doomsday fight were more colorful and detailed on the 2017 TVs.
I also checked out some streaming in HDR on the OLEDs, including "Mad Dogs" on Amazon and "Jessica Jones" on Netflix, the latter in Dolby Vision. Differences followed the trends I saw with 4K Blu-ray, although for some reason the B6 looked less saturated with "Mad Dogs" than the other TVs. Comparing Dolby Vision on the E7 and C7 directly to HDR10 on the other sets (distributed from a Roku Premiere+), differences were very difficult to discern.
|Black luminance (0%)||0||Good|
|Peak white luminance (100%)||473||Average|
|Avg. gamma (10-100%)||2.24||Average|
|Avg. grayscale error (10-100%)||1.841||Good|
|Dark gray error (20%)||1.446||Good|
|Bright gray error (70%)||1.237||Good|
|Avg. color error||4.417||Average|
|Avg. saturations error||5.03||Poor|
|Avg. luminance error||5.37||Poor|
|Avg. color checker error||5.2||Poor|
|1080p/24 Cadence (IAL)||Pass||Good|
|Motion resolution (max)||600||Average|
|Motion resolution (dejudder off)||600||Average|
|Input lag (Game mode)||21.2||Good|
|HDR default (Cinema)|
|Peak white luminance (10% win)||721||Average|
|Gamut % DCI/P3 (CIE 1976)||98||Good|
|Avg. saturations error||3||Good|
|Avg. color checker error||2.7||Good|